Kinematics of flagellar swimming in Euglena gracilis


Active flagella provide the propulsion mechanism for a large variety of swimming eukaryotic microorganisms, from protists to sperm cells. Planar and helical beating patterns of these structures are recurrent and widely studied. The fast spinning motion of the locomotory flagellum of the alga Euglena gracilis constitutes a remarkable exception to these patterns. We report a quantitative description of the 3D flagellar beating in swimming Euglena gracilis. Given their complexity, these shapes cannot be directly imaged with current microscopy techniques. We show how to overcome these limitations by developing a method to reconstruct in full the 3D kinematics of the cell from conventional 2D microscopy images, based on the exact mathematical characterization of the helical motion of the cell body.

Related papers:

  • Rossi, M., Cicconofri, G., Beran, A., Noselli, G. and DeSimone, A. (2017).
    Kinematics of flagellar swimming in Euglena gracilis: Helical trajectories and flagellar shapes.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of USA, 114, 13085-13090.